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UNKNOWN MEN WHO
MADE A DIFFERENCE
Intro: Thus far in our study of the Judges, we have considered the ministries of Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Gideon. All of these, with the exception of Shamgar led the people of Israel to outstanding military victories.
In the list I just mentioned, one man stands out as being different. I am referring to Shamgar. He is considered to be one of the Minor Judges. There are six Minor Judges in all. They are Shamgar, Jud. 3:31; the two men mentioned in our text today, Tola, Jud. 10:1, and Jair, Jud. 10:3-5; Ibzan, Jud. 12:8-10; Elon, Jud. 12:11-12; and Abdon, Jud. 12:13-15.
The reason these men are called Minor Judges is because they were no great military leaders like Deborah and Gideon; they were men who helped maintain the peace in the nation of Israel. While they might not have been mighty in military exploits, they were as important to the nation of Israel as those Judges that led the nation to great military victory.
Today, as we continue our study of the Judges of Israel, we are going to consider the lives and ministries of two of the Minor Judges. Today, we will examine the lives of Tola and Jair. While the Bible has very little to say about these two men, their lives and deeds have mush to teach us.
I want us to learn the truth that you do not have to be well known to make a difference for the glory of God. I want you to see that God delights in using the unknown servant to help His people, glorify His name and build His kingdom. I want you to see that God can and will use you if you will make yourself available to Him.
As the Lord gives liberty today, let’s talk about a couple of Unknown Men Who Made A Difference. Consider with me the principles that are revealed in the lives of these unknown men.
I. v. 1 THE MESS THEY INHERITED
· Verse 1 brings causes us to remember a man by the name of Abimelech. His story is found in Judges 9. Abimelech was the son of Gideon by his concubine, Jud. 8:31. After the death of Gideon, Abimelech determines within himself that he will be the ruler of Israel. He convinces his mother’s people, the Shechemites to support him in his quest to become the king of Israel.
The men of Shechem confer among themselves and decide to help Abimelech. They give him seventy pieces of silver, 9:4. Using this money, Abimelech hires a group of thugs to help him achieve his goal, 9:4.
Abimelech takes these men to his father’s house and kills 69 of his seventy half-brothers, 9:5. The youngest, a boy named Jotham escapes, 9:5. After this, the men of Shechem declare Abimelech to be their king, 9:6. After his anointing, Abimelech ruled as the king for three years, 9:22. In the end, the men of Shechem turned on Abimelech and there was war between them and the followers of Abimelech, 9:23-49. In the midst of an attack upon the walls of Thebez, Abimelech got too close to the wall and a woman threw a piece of a millstone from the wall and hit Abimelech in the head, 9:53. Knowing that he was dying, Abimelech commanded one of his men to kill his with a sword so that it would not be said that Abimelech had been killed by a woman, 9:54.
· By the time Abimelech is dead, the nation of Israel is left in tatters from a vicious civil war. Military upheaval isn’t the only problem the nation faced. The Bible tells us that as soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned their backs on God and gave their worship to the Canaanite fertility god Baal, 8:33-34.
· As a result of all these problems, the nation of Israel is in a mess. This was the nation inherited by Tola and Jair. I want to share a couple of principles with you right here.
Ø God always has a remnant – In Israel, things were bad. The nation is at war with itself, and the majority of the people are worshiping idols. In the midst of all that, God still has a faithful remnant.
That fact has not changed! When Elijah entered the valley of depression, he came to believe that he was the only person in the country that was living for God and doing right. He soon found out that God has a remnant in Israel. Elijah is told that there still 7,000 that had not bowed their knees to Baal, 1 Kings 19:18.
God still has a remnant! In this day of increasing immorality and rampant wickedness, God still has a faithful people who love Him, serve Him and live for Him. There are still people who have a prayer closet. There are still people who believe the Bible is the Word of God. There are still people who love the church. There are still people who will tell a lost world about Jesus. There are still people who sing, shout, testify and honor God. While this remnant might not be in the majority, they are still here for the glory of God.
Ø Serving God is not always easy, but it is always right – It must have been difficult for Tola and Jair as they dealt with the problems left behind by Abimelech and as they dealt with the idolatry of the nation. It was not an easy day to ministry, but they ministered anyway. We could learn a lot from their example.
It’s not always easy to walk in the old paths when everyone around us is looking for something new, but it is right! It isn’t always easy to live for the Lord when others around you are living for the world, the flesh and the devil, but it is right! It isn’t always easy to do the right thing when others around you are acting in bad ways, but it is always right! The fact, we can make a choice to live for God, even when everyone else seems to be going their own way and living for self. Our duty is not to look to them, but to Him Who perfectly ran His Own race and will enable us to runs ours as well, Heb. 12:1-3; Phil. 4:13; John 15:4-5.
· Our world is in a mess. No one would argue with that. We can lay the blame for that anywhere we like. We can blame Washington, we can blame the modern, contemporary churches, and we can blame one another. But, at the end of the day, the blame rests right here. The people of God are partially to blame for the condition of the world around us. We have ceased to do right, and we have stood by silent while the world has embraced evil! It’s time for the remnant of the Lord to stand up and fight for the things we have left, Rom. 13:11-14. It’s time to fight for the family, the home, the church and the community. If we fail to stand for what is important today, we should not complain when it is taken from us tomorrow!
I. The Mess They Inherited
II. v. 1-5 THE MINISTRY
· These two men may not have led any great military campaigns. They might not have commanded great armies. They may not have left a legacy of great spiritual achievements. But, what they did accomplish deserves consideration. What they did still challenges us today.
· These men helped maintain peace for nearly 50 years in a nation split apart by war, rebellion and pagan worship. That in itself is no small feat. When there were no attacks from the outside, they helped prevent the nation from being ripped apart from the inside. Theirs was a ministry of peace in a time of turmoil.
These men also helped to preserve the heritage of their nation. They ministered to the faithful remnant in Israel in a time when that fading remnant needed consistent leadership.
· Tola and Jair did in their day exactly what we are supposed to be doing in our day. They acted like salt.
Jesus said that His people are “the salt of the earth”, Matt. 5:13. Salt, as you know, purifies, adds flavor to bland foods, and helps preserve meat. In Bible times, salt was more valuable than money. The ancient Romans used to give a soldier his pay in salt rather than money. The word “salary” comes to us from the Roman word “salarium”, which speaks of a soldier being paid in salt. The phrase “not worth his salt” comes from this practice.
· When Jesus called His people “the salt of the earth”, He uses it as a metaphor that teaches about the influence His people in the world today:
Ø Our Preserving Influence - Ill. Salt wards off rot and decay! It is rubbed into meat in an effort to preserve it. (Ill. Sodom and Gomorrah - Gen. 19. They could have been saved by the preserving influence of just 10 righteous men.) So it is in America today! I am convinced that the presence and the prayers of “salty” Christians has done more to preserve this nation than anything else we could name. It is the righteousness of God’s children that made America great and it is what keeps this country from being judged today, Pro. 14:34.
Ø Our Penetrating Influence – (Ill. Salt will penetrate and infiltrate whatever it touches. It is an aggressive substance.) (Ill. The early church - Acts 8:1, 4; Acts 17:6.) I believe that we have been called by the Lord to be an active force in the world around us. The church should be a militant army charging the very gates of Hell, Matt. 16:18.
Ø Our Purifying Influence – (Ill. Salt has remarkable cleansing ability.) (Ill. 2 Kings 2:19-22 - Elisha cleansed the waters at Jericho with salt. In ancient times, newborn babies were washed in salt to cleanse their bodies and to give firmness to their skin, Eze. 16:4.) (Ill. Salt in a wound can cleanse the area.) Often, Christians have a purifying effect on the world around them. They ought to behave differently when the child of God walks up. Don’t be offended if they stop talking when you come around. Just thank God that you are acting as a purifying force in the world around you.) (Ill. Every meat offering was to be made with salt - Lev. 2:13. So it is with our lives. We are to offer our lives as an offering to the Lord, Rom. 12:1-2. When we do, it proves that we are worth our salt!)
Ø Our Pleasing Influence – (Bringing out the best. Salt blends and adds flavor to food. In fact, there are some foods that are better off not eaten, if there is no salt!) So too, the Christian should flavor the world around him. As salt, we are to so live our lives that we bring out the best in those around us. That is what Jesus did time and again, and that what you and I are supposed to be doing for His glory! (Ill. Phil. 1:27)
Ø Our Poisoning Influence – (Ill. Salt kills some things! Ever poured salt on a slug? Slugs and salt do not mix! Salt poured on a lawn will kill the grass. Too much salt is not good for your blood pressure.) (Ill. Abimelech, in Judges 9:45, took a city and the sowed the city with salt to prevent the ground from being used to grow crops. He killed the fields with salt.) By the same token, when true Christianity is sowed into the lives, homes and communities of the world, some things will be put to death. We can make an impact on our world by the very fact that Christianity is pure poison to sin. When Jesus comes into a life, drinking, cussing, fighting, hating, killing, drugging, loose living, etcetera, are all put to death as we yield to Him in sanctification - 2 Cor. 5:17.)
Ø Our Promoting Influence – (Ill. Salt creates a thirst for water in those who are exposed to it!) As salt, the Christian has the wonderful opportunity to promote a thirst for Jesus in the world. Remember what the Lord told us? He said that out of our bellies would flow rivers of living water - John 7:37-38. When we live as Christians should live. When we take the call of Jesus seriously and live right, look right, act right, talk right, worship right, dress right, etc. Then we have the ability to create a thirst for Jesus in the hearts of those around us. When that happens, we can point men to Jesus and share with them the water of life. Sadly, most Christians do not promote thirst, but ridicule instead. Too often, we live substandard immoral lives and the world sees it and says, “Why should I receive Jesus? I live just as good as that crowd down at the church!” The sad truth is, they are often right! Let’s so live that we ever prove them wrong. Our lives must be above reproach if we are to create a thirst for God in the world around us!
We must never give anyone cause to say, “If that is a Christian, then I never want to be one.” Instead, our lives ought to motivate people to say, “That is what I want my life to be.”
Ø Our Proven Influence – (Ill. Salt changes nearly everything it touches. Ill. Food, ice, etc.) (Ill. We are called to be thermostats and not thermometers in the world around us. We are to be the instruments that God can use to implement change in a wicked world. When genuine, New Testament Christianity touches this sinful, wicked world, there will be change of some variety. We just need to be sure that we are changing the world and not the other way around! There is a modern mentality which says, “We have to be like the world to win the world.” We’ll win see more people saved when we are like Jesus!
· Tola and Jair carried out a very important ministry in Israel. God used them to touch a nation. God used them to maintain peace. God used them for His glory, and that is the mark of a successful ministry!
By the same token, if we can simply glorify God and hand down old-fashioned worship to the next generation, our lives and ministries have been successful. Let us pray that we will honor God throughout the days of our lives!
I. The Mess They Inherited
II. The Ministry They Performed
III. v. 1-5 THE MESSAGE
· Tola and Jair served for a total of 45 years. They did not lead armies. They did not build cities. They did not write books. What they did was for more important. These men stood for God in an evil day. Their lives, though little is recorded about them, still preach to us today. Let me show you a few lessons we can learn from these unknown men.
· There is a lesson in their names.
Ø “Tola” means “Crimson Worm”. This speaks of the Coccus worm found in oak trees. These worms were used to produce the red dye that used in the articles made for the tabernacle. It comes from the Hebrew root “tala”, which means “to be clothed in scarlet”. Tola is the son of “Puah”. His name means “light”. Thus, Tola was “the son of light”.
In his names, Tola is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Tola was a man who through humble service and self-surrender became the savior of Israel. He reminds us of Jesus Who is “the Light of the World”, John 8:12. Our Savior was literally clothed in scarlet when He gave His life for the sins of the world, Isa. 53:1-6; 52:14. Jesus even called himself a “worm”, Psa. 22:6. Tola reminds us of the Lord Who humbled Himself so that He might save lost sinners from their sins, Phil. 2:5-8.
Ø “Jair” means “the enlightener”. He reminds of our Lord Who is the “Sun of righteousness”, Mal. 4:2, and “the Light of the World”, John 8:12. We are told that Jair was a wealthy man who was able to give all thirty of his sons their own donkeys. He was also able to give each son his own city. In this he reminds of the Lord Jesus Who owns everything and shares everything He owns with us, Rom. 8:17.
Jair is associated with donkeys. The donkey is an animal associated with peace, unlike the horse which is associated with war. Jair was a man of peace in a world filled with turmoil. He speaks of our Savior, Who is “The Prince of Peace”, Isa. 9:6. God raised up Jair to bring peace to a nation. God raised up Jesus to bring peace to our souls and to reconcile us to the Lord. Jair had sons who were ambassadors of peace to the nation of Israel. Jesus has children who are His ambassadors of peace and salvation to the entire world, 2 Cor. 5:20.
· There are other lessons from their lives.
Ø You do not have to be famous make a difference – Tola and Jair are not well known, but their lives made a difference for thousands of people living in Israel in that day.
The same is true for you. Some people think they can’t be used of the lord because they are not well known. Just remember that God has placed you exactly where He wants you. He knows where you are and when He has a bigger assignment for your life, He will come for you and use you in ways you can never imagine. Your duty is to grow where you are planted and to keep doing the last thing He told you until He tells you to do something different! (Ill. David with his sheep; Moses with his flocks; Peter, Andrew, James and John with their nets; etc.)
Ø You do not have to accomplish great deeds to live an extraordinary life – Tola and Jair never did anything extraordinary, but their lives still testify today.
Most of us will never be famous, nor will we accomplish great things after the world’s standard. Even though you may not accomplish things this world calls great, your life can still be extraordinary. If you live for Jesus, faithfully serve His church and His people, raise your family to honor Him and His word and tell lost sinners about Jesus, your life is extraordinary!
Ø God can help you make the best of a bad situation – Tola and Jair inherited a country in trouble. God gave them the ability to hold their nation together for nearly 50 years.
There will be times of crisis that will come your way as you walk with the Lord. He has designed those times just for you. His goal is to make you more like His Son, the Lord Jesus, Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13. He will give you the grace to stand in the hard times, 2 Cor. 12:9. He will give you grace to thrive in the midst of hardship. (Ill. Joseph and his trials and ultimate promotion.)
Ø God is honored by, and He will honor, a consistent life – Tola and Jair did not accomplish anything that stands out, but just a look at the length of their judgeship reveals that they were consistent. They stood for the Lord for many years and God honored their faithfulness.
Few things honor the Lord like our being faithful to Him. It is His desire that every one of His children live a faithful, consistent life before Him, 1 Cor. 4:2.
So, let me encourage you to keep living for the Lord regardless of what is going on around you. Keep living for Him even when times are lean. Keep living for Him even when others fall away. Keep living for Him even when you are attacked for it. Keep living for Him even when it is unpopular. Keep living for Him even when others walk away. At the end of a life of faithful, consistent love for the Lord you will hear these words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” Matt. 25:21. Those words from our blessed Savior will make every mile of the trip worthwhile!
Conc: Tola and Jair lived and died in obscurity, but their lives continue to speak to us about our own walk with the Lord. Thus, their lives were not in vain.
Neither is your life in vain. You matter to God. You matter to your family. You matter to this church. You matter to your community. You matter!
Stay the course child of God! There is a pay day someday. One day, you will reach the end of your earthly journey. When that day comes it will not matter whether you were famous or not. It will not matter what you achieved in life. All that will matter is your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. All that will matter is you love for Him, your labor for Him and a life lived for Him.
Are their needs in your life that should be addressed today? Are you faithful and consistent in your walk with the Lord? Do you need to come before Him and say something like this? “Lord, it doesn’t matter who knows me as long as they can see you. It doesn’t matter where I am as long as you have placed me there. It doesn’t matter what is happening to me as long as you control it. It doesn’t matter to me what I accomplish in life as long as I accomplish everything you have saved me for.”
Let’s mind Him today!